Thursday, August 1, 2013

Humility is for Losers!

Unappreciated Humility 

A recent study by the most respected Christian church social science researcher George Barna asked practicing Christians what qualities do they think are essential for Christian leaders to have.(you can find the article here) I was surprised to find out that humility was only mentioned by 7 percent of the respondents.

You would think that the church whose head humiliated himself to the point of going to the cross for our sins would look upon humility more favorably and value it more highly as a quality for Christian leaders than we apparently do. But alas, it seems that no one values humility anymore. We value things like assertiveness, independence, strength, and power. It beguiles me how so many can miss the importance of this central quality of Christian leadership. To be sure integrity scored highly, but I do not know how one can have integrity without being humble. For younger people authenticity seems to be highly valued, but how can one be truly authentic if one is not humble first?

Humility Defined 

According to the survey, the definition of humility is a willingness to give credit to others. This makes its lack of respect by those who attend evangelical and mainline churches even more surprising. How can one be truly Christian leader if one does not give credit to God and others? Humility according to this definition is the central characteristic to help us live out the great commandment to love God with one's heart, soul and mind and to love one's neighbor as oneself.

Perhaps the decline being witnessed in Christian communities across the board has something to do with the lack of appreciation of the concept of humility. If one pays attention to the various contemporary media outlets, one will see whether one is liberal, or conservative, hip or intellectual, that self promotion is the current modus operandi of our culture. There is apparently no such thing as bad publicity. To give credit to others according to a common worldly understanding is to throw away a valuable resource. Why do it if I do not get the credit? Asks the world.

Biblical Humility

However by living this way and ignoring the contributions of God and others in our relentless search for credit, we damage the relationships necessary for us to live a life of peace and wholeness as God intended. The Biblical definition of humility has a different nuance than that we have seen so far. We can see the Biblical view of humility in Peter's words "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time." 1 Peter 5:6 (NRSV) To humble oneself is to allow God to work within you. If one does not live humbly one therefore does not live for or with God.

Perhaps when Christians ignore humility we are really just revealing our attitude of wanting to go it alone. In the end, if we go it alone all the time our lives will be less full than they could be. We see this wisdom written in Ecclesiastes " Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help." Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NRSV) Humility is essential to facilitate community and build relationships.

The Humble One 

This is the exact reason why God sent his Son Jesus in humble fashion; he wanted to create a community of people in relationship to him. God does not want us to go it alone. Paul wrote the Christians in Philippi "he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross." Philippians 2:8 (NRSV) I gave this posting a provocative title because this is how the world views the humble these days. However there is often truth in satire, Jesus himself reminded us that world will always view the humble as those who lose, but that when one loses that which is temporary one gains the eternal. "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." Matthew 16:25 (NRSV)

In the Bible sometimes losing is winning, especially when one is giving up that which keeps him or her removed from The Lord of Heaven and Earth. In the eyes of his Roman executioners the humble Jesus was a loser because he did not challenge their political dominance. Yet this same empire would itself be conquered by the followers of Jesus who used humility to defeat injustice and evil. To be humble is to appreciate life as it actually is. So consider the humble, you may just see the stuff of life in them.

Keep the Faith,

Pastor Knecht

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